These are the two fundamental questions addressed by the Congregational Accessibility Network (CAN). Persons with disabilities, their family members, and their advocates tend to have one of two immediate but opposite reactions:
- “Of course we welcome all persons!” We would like to believe that our congregations are indeed welcoming.
- “No, this and this and this is wrong, inadequate, or unhelpful.” We have a litany of complaints around accessibility and inclusion.
But the question looms: “How do we know?”
How do we really know how well our congregation is doing?
- We may follow all of the accessibility guidelines we can find.
- We may congratulate ourselves on a class for adults with developmental disabilities or for incorporating a child with autism into activities with his peers.
- We may have the latest in assistive listening devices in our worship space.
But does all of that mean that we are actually more welcoming?
CAN exists to help congregations to take that question seriously. It’s not about following some rigid rules. It is a journey. So we celebrate the good things that are happening. We welcome the new accessibility features. We rejoice when more people are included in our congregational worship, service, and social activities.
But the journey means that we are also aware of the persons who are excluded. We are sensitive to those on the margins. We take time to hear and understand the concerns of those who don’t feel like they belong.
The vision of CAN is to assist congregations on that journey. How?
- By providing assessment tools, both objective (Congregational Assessment Survey) and subjective (Individual and Family Needs Questionnaire).
- By connecting congregations to resources both within their own faith traditions as well as learning from others.
- By linking congregations to the resources and best practices they need in addressing specific issues.
- By providing a forum for networking and dialogue with others on the journey.
This is CAN’s vision! What is your vision? How can we work together? Give us your comments and questions! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.